The 2013 season is drawing to a close, and the coaching carousel is getting ready for the end-of-year rush.
It comes as no surprise that Mike Zimmer’s name is doing the rounds.
If you type Zimmer’s name into Twitter, you’ll see that he’s on a number of fan wish lists. Do the same on Google News, and you’ll find articles touting him as one to watch.
Mike Zimmer leaving Cincinnati is the stuff of nightmares for Bengals fans. It would be fair to say that without Zim, the Bengals would not be the team they are today. Almost every conversation about the Bengals starts with "Hey, how about that Mike Zimmer defense?" and deservedly so.
But barring some sort of cataclysmic nosedive, he will interview for head coaching positions this offseason. His defensive unit is one of the best in the league. It currently ranks eighth in total defense. That’s without Leon Hall and Geno Atkins.
He’s currently under contract with the Bengals through 2014, but that wouldn’t stop him from leaving if the right offer came along. Zim has interviewed for jobs in the past and has been considered by the Colts, Dolphins, Bucs and Browns.
On game day, it’s become almost cliche that when Mike Zimmer is shown on the sideline, broadcasters will, without fail, question why he isn’t already a head coach somewhere.
It’s a question Zimmer considered this time last year, according to Lex18.com:
Honestly, I thought I'd be a head coach by now… I would like to be one…I'm not obsessed with it, but I want to be the one holding the Super Bowl trophy.
However, leaving Cincinnati would be no easy decision. The Bengals are currently the best they’ve been since Boomer Esiason last wore stripes. They have a legitimate chance at contending in the postseason this year, next year and arguably for quite a few years to come. If Zimmer leaves, it will be for a team that’s struggling. Think Minnesota, Tennessee or the New York Jets for example.
Consistency is working wonders for the Bengals. Whether you think the team can go all the way or not, there’s no denying that Marvin Lewis, Jay Gruden and Mike Zimmer have found something. The players are buying in, and the postseason berths keep coming. If you were to take away Zimmer from that equation, what would the outcome be? It’s not something anyone in Cincinnati would like to consider.
Despite being passed on by teams in previous years, Zimmer has continued to improve as a coach. He’s handled players like Adam Jones and Vontaze Burfict with aplomb, while reviving the careers of others such as Terence Newman. More importantly, his defense loves playing for him.
It may be a few months until these questions reach a head, but it does make one thing abundantly clear: The Bengals are most definitely in win-now mode.